Evicting renter from a vacation rental property

306 Replies

I do more than my fair share of evictions here in SoCal. They cost anywhere from $600 to about $2,500 and take a few weeks to a few months. Just depends on what happens. In extreme circumstances, they can cost and take much longer, but those situations are really rare. Luckily, I haven't had to go to trial by jury or dealt with a BK filing... yet.

If the tenant files an answer and it is baseless, I go for the MSJ, or motion summary judgement. That'll run you about $1,500, but you don't have to go to court. If that doesn't fly, then you have to go to trial and your lawyer should be present which is another $250 or so. Luckily you will be in Riverside County and I've had good luck here. The judge actually thanked me one time for being a landlord and being willing to take the risks that I take. He also said the community appreciates and needs my service.

If I were in your situation - don't do any of the vindictive, tenant harassment things you and others are contemplating/suggesting; blog posts, wire cutting, utility canceling, etc. It will only get you in trouble. And in the court's eyes, it is vindictive, tenant harassment. Cease communication. Let the lawyer deal with it and await your day in court. You can make a big production out of it later.

All businesses, let me repeat myself, ALL businesses experience loss. People shoplift from the local convenience store, homeless people do beer grabs at the liquor store, diners dine and dash, employees steal, rehabbers get appliances stolen, insurance companies get fraudulent claims, banks have loans go bad, tenants don't pay rent, etc.

You're going through your business's period of loss. Don't let your emotions cause you to make stupid business decisions. Yeah, the tenant is a douche. So what? Lots of people are douches. Yes he's stealing from you. Whoopy ding-dong. Nobody ever stole from you in the past? If not, this will be a good experience on how to deal with it when you get more stuff stolen from you in the future. Like Forrest Gump says "It happens." 

Stay in touch with your lawyer to get progress updates. If you do some of the illegal suggestions above and this tenant is in fact a pro, it will only be used against you in the court of law. My personal blog has a very recent post I wrote on how I win in court every time. You can find it at my name dot come. Not sure if they allow external links on this site.

Hi Cory,

I have some experience in evicting tenants. Normally, the first notice is a 3-day pay or quit, not 30 day when he failed to pay the rent. At this point, do not collect any rent from the tenant or he would have satisfied the payment portion and you'd be back to square one. I truly hope that it was AirBNB and not the tenant who paid that or it'd be a long protracted battle. 

If the tenant knows what he's doing and file a reply through the court system like mine was, you could be looking at 3 months before you can evict. Good luck!

@Aaron Mazzrillo  Thank you for providing your prospective. I would not do any of the vindictive actions, although they did run through my head initially. My attorney already advised me against all that stuff, and was clear and basically echoed what you wrote above. That is good to hear that most of your evictions are straightforward. My fingers are crossed that this eviction will be swift, however time will tell. Good to hear Riverside judge is reasonable. You are right, in the end this will simply be a business loss. I must say I felt relieved once I knew an attorney was handling this. Its not cheap, but it is obviously necessary, and as you mention a cost of doing business. And I keep thinking of the thriller "Pacific Heights" and no landlord wants a situation to devolve in that way. Letter of the law all the way for me. Thanks for taking the time, and I will check out your blog post. -C

Kristine Marie Poe I have been trying to find out about that payment that was release yesterday...still no response from airbnb on that. It is very frustrating as you and others mentioned it affects the eviction process. 

Some on this thread have stressed to focus on the legal side of things and deal with airbnb later. However airbnb is actually making this whole process more difficult/complicated. They still refuse to provide me with a direct staff contact phone number, so I am still communicating with them only through emails and phone calls when they call me (I can't call them back without going through the call center).

So...now airbnb may be screwing up my intention to serve notice to these squatters. I say "maybe" as I won't know until they either email me back, or call me to clarify ifthe payment was a customer service payment, or if it actually came from the squatter. They continue to muddy the waters on how to proceed. It is beyond frustrating. To be continued...

Lots of great updates on this thread, and @Cory T.  you are handling things with a lot more clarity and patience than I would have!

I wanted to add a couple of thoughts to the approaching-the-press angle, for when and if you go that route. I should have mentioned in my previous post that, as a general rule, newspapers (and probably TV as well) won't write about landlord-tenant disputes. There's just too much he said/she said, and quite frankly, there's nothing all that newsworthy there; happens every day, all over the place. So keep that in mind - it'll be a short conversation at best if you approach reporters to talk about a problem with a tenant (especially seeing as you are essentially the landlord - there's never much sympathy for the landlord!).

I think your pitch here is focused on the uniqueness of the situation and on the growing pains associated with an emerging industry, not to mention the questionable tactics from airbnb. Deleting your conversations w/the renter???!!! That's crazy. (Tough to prove, also, but if you can demonstrate that other owners have had the same complaint and there's a pattern, you bolster the chances of a reporter hearing you out on that assertion.) So industry writers are probably a better route for you overall. Maybe even a crime angle, too - this is a new twist on an old crime, and it's interesting to know whether guys like this are taking advantage of a lack of jurisdiction, not to mention exploiting the apathy of a big company that's doing what it can to ignore a potential problem. I think airbnb and others are going to have to address this sooner or later, as the problem will only grow as criminals figure out they can take advantage of this scenario.

Bravo to you for your clear-headedness, and good luck getting rid of this jerk quickly!

Is there anybody that sues the tenant after the fact for loss of revenue, damages, ect. If there net worth was 10k I would spend 20k just to take it from them on principle. Anybody have any good landlord redemption stories? not trying to highjack thread, this stuff just boils my blood. I wish you the best.  

@k. 

Kristine Marie Poe Yes, indeed it was a "customer service payout",,,see below:

Jul 10 08:30:

Hi Cory,

I can absolutely confirm that our payments division within our customer experience team paid you $--- USD on July 8th, 2014 to your default ---  payout method ending in ---.

The reasoning behind which, was not only for customer service support due to the inconveniences you're experiencing with M----- and his relative, but because his second reservation payment, which was supposed to be charged from his payment method on June 26th, 2014, did not go through.

To clarify, on long term reservations lasting longer than 30 days, we spread the reservation payment and payouts up each month. At the 30 day mark of M-----'s reservation his card was set to be charged, but for whatever reason, whether intentional by him or not, his payment did not go through and his card could not be charged. Due to this, we wanted to make sure you still received money for hosting, so we paid you from our account while we reached out to M-----for re-payment to us.

I hope the above explanation helps but if you need further clarification please let me know!

Kind regards,

-------

Thanks for the update from airbnb.  I love how they continue to refer to the situation as "hosting" when you've had a non paying squatter for 14+ days.  

I'm glad to hear that the payment was indeed a customer service payout.  That means the guest/squatter has no proof of payment for the last two weeks, and was not, as he put it:  living in the domicile legally.  I was worried that maybe it really was a credit card glitch (albeit with a crazy person).  Then his claims of harassment would have some merit.  You can't threaten to shut off utilities in CA for non-payment (now you know!).  A scamming squatter pro will use stuff like that against you.  They'll use it to answer the complaint and draw out the UD, or counter sue for harassment. 

Hopefully your squatter isn't a pro. Let your attorney do the noticing asap and then file the UD.  Sounds like your squatter is home a lot so process serving won't be delayed.  :)

Originally posted by @Joanna L.:

@Cory T.  : I just re-read your original post. Looks like his reservations were already expired. I'm not understanding how you didn't get the 14 days payment on the 31st day tho since Airbnb collects payment in advance from this guest.

But the fact that he doesn't want to leave when the reservations was due definitely confirmed that he's a squatter. Like someone said, lots of us could relate to your situation and hoping you could come out of this stressful situation.

Joanna:  read Cory's post where airbnb replies below.  It turns out they don't charge the the guest for the entire stay amount in advance.  Only 30 days at a time.  A guest could easily become a non-paying one after 30 days, but by that time they are living (and possibly entrenched) in your unit.  IMO, that creates potential tenancy issues, at least in CA.  

They seem to know who to contact to make airbnb jump 

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-an-airbnb-guest-trashed-a-penthouse-2014-3?op=1

Originally posted by @Cory T.:

 And I keep thinking of the thriller "Pacific Heights" and no landlord wants a situation to devolve in that way.

 That movie instantly cured me of EVER being a landlord.  ;-)

@Michaela G. Noted--thanks!

@Bob C I may agree with you after this is all said and done. We'll see... ;-)

@Account Closed  A wine stained comforter problem sounds dreamy. I wish. These squatters are likely both from Texas (Texas license plates, I don't have much more than one name, email, phone number, and whatever is on google), so they may have sought out a CA airbnb specifically due to the 30 day law. If they are running some internet scam/business out of my condo, they could be doing it in any state. My gut tells me they picked CA intentionally. Thanks for offering your services. Believe me, I have had to talk friends and family down from the edge on this one. Hence my reference to "Pacific Heights."

Sorry for all your hassle.  The word EVICTION caught my eye since vacation rentals is my thing, and I can't even imagine!  My suggestion:  once you get through this - get out of AirBnB and go to HomeAway.com or VRBO.com if you continue the vacation nightly rental thing.  I've been doing this for 10 years and have NEVER had this kind of issue with either of them.  Along with good customer service, Home Away has lots of links to problem solving, legal matters and forms to use on these kinds of things...if not, they will try to send you to someone who will.  Although most of my guests have been nightly (3 to 7 nights), I've had a couple of 30 - 90 day stays, and never encountered this.  Through trial, error and experience, I created and now utilize an extensive Rental Agreement, along with requiring the guest's Drivers license, credit card and everything while requiring a hefty refundable security deposit if they want it back - they leave as they found it.  It's what the hotels do, right? I agree with some, give Airbnb a poor rating on BBB and get the media involved...shame on Airbnb.  Let me know if I can offer more assistance down the road in successful nightly rental vacation ownership!  Good luck with this one!

Originally posted by @Michelle L:

I'm so sorry to hear this is happening to you. I have dozens of rentals listed on Airbnb and never had too much problem, other than a few damage claims I had to fight with them about. Their customer service is mediocre at best. I've had lots of rentals that were 30+ days and never thought much of it. I've never had a problem so far, thank goodness. Because of this post, I'm going to have to figure out a way to get around the 30 day rule. Move them to a hotel for 1 night, then back in? Time to talk to a lawyer. 

Please keep us posted. I'm very interested in how this turns out. It could happen to any of us at any time.

Moving out for one night won't do it in CA 

http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/whois.shtml

So I can go to California, check into a hotel for 31 days, then claim that I am a "resident" and just stay there without paying any more?  Is that really true?

stephen
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 Originally posted by @Cory T.:

@Joe Gore I'm not sure what a skip trace is...like a background check? 

RE: airbnb recovery...I'm just trying to get them on the phone at this point, but yes, I'll look into recovery from them for any damages. Unfortunately the police are unable to help until an eviction is served (I am still info gathering, and would love to find a loop hole). California is pretty darned lax comparted to other states unfortunately.

@Bob Bowling  Deposit is minor...just $200.

Aly NA In Calif, 30 day+ stay apparently creates residency, even when booked through an obvious temporary lodging site such as airbnb. Thanks for the comment about the "comical template" it helps me take a step back and feel a bit of stress subside. ;-) I have no clue about FL laws, but def research beforehand...FL has got to be more logical than the CA laws.

I had a disagreeable tenant in NJ who deliberately took advantage of my generous nature.  In that case, rather than let bygones be bygones after the eviction, I sued in civil court and won my case.  The judgement was for $34,000. as I named every conceivable thing as a loss - with the idea that some would get contested away in court.  But the tenant didn't show up.  Mostly because the burden of proof of service is lower on amounts over $10,000. - and so a simple notice sent to the then-vacant rental house was sufficient - last known address. <g>

I was awarded the judgement and about every six months sent a letter of inquiry in to the court asking about the status.  About ten or twelve years later that same tenant inherited a large house that she then sold.  At settlement the title company cut me a check for a little over $58,000.  

I have a disagreeable tenant being evicted next week.  I'm going to try doing the same thing.  I don't know how that all works in Florida - but I'm going to find out.. <g>

I make a nice friend and will do a lot to work with somebody in general.  But don't come to me, ignore my friendship, deliberately start something, and then expect Queensberry Rules. <g>

stephen
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  Originally posted by @Rob Anderson:

Is there anybody that sues the tenant after the fact for loss of revenue, damages, ect. If there net worth was 10k I would spend 20k just to take it from them on principle. Anybody have any good landlord redemption stories? not trying to highjack thread, this stuff just boils my blood. I wish you the best.  

Originally posted by @Bob Bowling:

Moving out for one night won't do it in CA 

http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/wh...

Bob:  Thanks for the link.  I've looked at that booklet many time for other issues, but never paid any attention to the definition of tenant versus guest.

Cory:  The link above from the Dept. of Consumer Affairs has some interesting info.  It might be a long shot........ but perhaps your squatter isn't a tenant if they fall into one of the special situations.  Is your vacation rental subject to the state hotel tax and/or have you been paying such a tax? I know Palm Springs has some permitting requirements for vacation rentals.  Not that everyone is complying.......

@Stephen S.  See below before you attempt to squat in a California hotel.  According the info below, if you choose your hotel/motel carefully, you may be able to pull it off. :)

SPECIAL SITUATIONS

The tenant rights and responsibilities discussed in this booklet apply only to people whom the law defines as tenants. Generally, under California law, lodgers and residents of hotels and motels have the same rights as tenants. Situations in which lodgers and residents of hotels and motels do and do not have the rights of tenants, and other special situations, are discussed in the "Special Situations" sidebar below. 

Special Situations

Hotels and motels

If you are a resident in a hotel or motel, you do not have the rights of a tenant in any of the following situations:

  1. You live in a hotel, motel, residence club, or other lodging facility for 30 days or less, and your occupancy is subject to the state’s hotel occupancy tax.
  2. You live in a hotel, motel, residence club, or other lodging facility for more than 30 days, but have not paid for all room and related charges owing by the 30th day.
  3. You live in a hotel or motel to which the manager has a right of access and control, and all of the following is true:
  • The hotel or motel allows occupancy for periods of fewer than seven days.
  • All of the following services are provided for all residents:
    - a fireproof safe for residents' use;
    - a central telephone service;
    - maid, mail, and room service; and
    - food service provided by a food establishment that is on or next to the hotel or motel grounds and that is operated in conjunction with the hotel or motel.

HI All, 

This whole ordeal has been exhausting...some weird stuff happening behind the scenes. Note to all--take a cache of web site pages, or screen shots  or print out and save them once you are entrenched in a mess like mine. 

Weird thing #1: My sisters twitter feeds were removed shortly after she blew up tweeting outrageous comments about airbnb.com on July 8th. These tweets are now back on her page.

Weird thing #2: I was advised to have my attorney send airbnb.com a preservation of evidence letter to recover the deleted conversations. I don't think my attorney had time to get to this today as I was unable to reach him. However I just checked my airbnb.com account and  conversations (not sure if all of them) appear to be reinstated. They were not there as of this morning, and they appear to be there now. I wish I had reached my attorney at days end to find out if he was able to send this request to airbnb, or if airbnb reinstated on their own accord. (Maybe they found this forum?).

No papers have been served yet...that airbnb "customer service payment" altered our deadline...so hoping to have this happen in next 48 hours.

Will update more soon...

-C

@Cory T.   I would have your lawyer contact AirBnB and tell them they will be held liable for any damages if why accept payment or do anything that delays your eviction process.  If hey accept a payment and delay your filing for some period they should be on the hook for rent.

@Cory T.  

I have read through this whole thread and I feel awful for you. I hope to read soon that you are free of this squatter and this mess.